What could be more innocent than a lady lawn bowler in her uniform? Heroine Lucy Law ponders the question in Hysteria at the Wisteria by Ellen Mary Wilton, published by Short Stop Press.
When a body is found on the top green of the Wisteria Bowling Club, it becomes clear one of these pleasant women is a murderer. Lucy’s own life is at risk as she delves into their lives to solve the crime ahead of the police.
This is Ellen Mary Wilton’s first novel – she has published a memoir of her childhood in Egypt at an Islamic boarding school, Daughters of Allah.
The mystery is well thought-out, and I didn’t guess the murderer so kudos to Ellen!
Ellen’s 40-something heroine Lucy is well-drawn: she is likeable but also enviable, being married to a rich lawyer and able to spend her days bowling and painting. Given that the Wisteria club is set in harbour side Sydney, she’s a plausible heroine; the club to which Ellen belongs in real life is in a very wealthy area. Ellen’s writing style is engaging. However, proof-reading could have been better. There were several punctuation errors which irked me as I read. Honestly, there is no excuse for poor proofing and editing.
Ellen’s novel draws on what she knows very well: the world of lawn bowls. Ellen’s a keen bowler at the Club where my Mum bowled until recently. Mum has retired from lawn bowls – a rare thing as most lady bowlers bowl until they truly drop! So I confess to knowing Ellen and meeting her several times. That hasn’t influenced my review of her book though.
Hysteria is as much about friendship and the bonds that form at bowls as it is about murder. I laughed out loud several times throughout the book at Ellen’s depiction of life at a bowls club. The agonising decision at a committee meeting about paper cups versus cups and saucers for morning tea at a special competition day is so true to life; my Mum was on the bowls committee for years if not decades and can attest to the politics which impact on such decisions.
Within lawn bowls strong friendships form. Bowls can rule your life, but it’s a very social monarch. For widows and retirees their fellow bowlers become an extended family. As with any family, there are the people you don’t get on with – in fact those that almost anyone doesn’t get on with, and there are some giggly moments throughout the book there too with grumpy Freda endearing herself to nobody.
This is a gentle mystery and a welcome addition to Australian crime fiction. If you think you’ll be bored by reading a novel whose main characters aren’t in their first flush of youth, think again.